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My Thoughts Turned To Dr Tshepo Motsepe When I Heard Of Her Husband Cyril Ramaphosa's Infidelities

South African women cannot simply say that because having affairs is internationally the norm for politicians, that this revelation does not really matter.

05/09/2017 03:59 SAST
Moeletsi Mabe/ Sunday Times/ Gallo Images/ Getty Images
South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa.

Since reading the Sunday Times article in which Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa stated that he has had an affair, my thoughts often went to his wife, the strong, confident and stylish Dr Tshepo Motsepe.

She, the phenomenal woman who has been at the side of the man who hopes to be the next president of South Africa. She is a dignified woman who has been going about her life as a medical doctor, being a mother of four and performing her duties as South Africa's second lady. She is not a darling of the media nor does she display her wealth [real wealth] on social media like the wife of Finance Minister Gigaba.

Now, Dr Motsepe has been thrust into the media spotlight and into the mouths and minds of ordinary South Africans because of her husband who has admitted to an affair. This is unfair and disrespectful and clearly not what Mr Ramaphosa thought of when he had his affair.

Whether Cyril Ramaphosa was outed as part of the dirty tricks campaign waged for the leadership of the ANC is not the focus of this piece, nor is whether Mr Ramaphosa's infidelity involved forty or just one; much rather the focus is on whether his personal life matters and why we should care.

It is true that South Africans are, for the most part pretty liberal and open about sexuality and matters of the heart. We forgive and forget especially when people fall in love and thus enter a relationship with another outside their marriage. Political stalwart and religious leader Allen Boesak married his current wife after he was outed as having an affair with her.

Why does the confession of Cyril Ramaphosa leave us with such a sense of dismay and a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth?

Even old National Party Minister Piet Koornhof could find a place of forgiveness and we, after all, do live with a president of the country who has a number of wives so there is no arguing that we are a pretty open-minded society when it comes to love. So why does the confession of Cyril Ramaphosa leave us with such a sense of dismay and a bit of a bitter taste in the mouth?

Maybe it is because we thought of Cyril as being a man of integrity and beyond reproach which probably does not say much in a country where the likes of Zuma run the country, but never-the-less Ramaphosa came across as one who is respectful and sincere about women and their concerns. Now it turns out that in his personal life he has disrespected at least two women: his wife and his mistress. Maybe that is our problem for ascribing to him the clean vest which he has in South African politics to his personal life, for he never put himself out there as a moral icon.

Ramaphosa appeared in the media with his wife and they came across as a couple respectful of each other, while each competently filled their own space in our society. I believe many of us loved the thought of a strong powerful man with a strong, intelligent woman at his side. According to reports, Dr Motsepe has forgiven her husband much in the vein of Hillary Clinton and we admire the strength and resolve that both women have shown.

We all know that relationships and marriages are complex and best left to those in it to comment on it, however, I do believe that as South African women we cannot simply say that because having affairs is internationally the norm for politicians, that this revelation does not really matter. Because it does.

It matters because most of the households in South Africa are led by women. Men are mostly absent and good male role-models are a scarce commodity. For this reason, we were all probably happy that South Africa has a Cyril Ramaphosa who appeared to be a man, who we can hold up as strong and confident enough in his own skin to have a phenomenal woman at his side.

The Ramaphosa news and its effect on our lives or our society cannot and should not be trivialised.

We need the men who fill our public space and whom our young people admire and look up to, to be more than just people of integrity in the public persona but also in their private lives.

Young men and boys in South Africa cannot be led to believe that having relationships on the side is okay, for it is humiliating, demeaning and disrespectful of the person one is married to, especially if that marriage is being held upright with conjugal rights and all.

With the report of Cyril Ramaphosa and his affair, we mothers have lost one more man we can champion and hold up as an example to our young boys. So even though, we will be moving on and this will be old news by the time the next scandal breaks, the Ramaphosa news and its effect on our lives or our society cannot and should not be trivialised.